Photo: Getty Images

A legacy is what you leave behind for future generations, whether it be one of wealth and inheritance for posterity, charitable acts, love, and laughter, or any other kind. You are already creating your story, but you can purposefully shape it to leave the legacy you want.

One notable example of defining a legacy comes from 1888, when Alfred Nobel’s brother, Ludvig, died. Reading the obituary, headlined “The merchant of death is dead,” Alfred discovered that it outlined his life instead of his brother’s, according to Britannica. One scathing passage described his life’s negative legacy of inventing dynamite and creating a business selling ammunition. Some believe this incident influenced Alfred Nobel to improve his legacy by using most of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prize—which many consider to be among the most prestigious awards in the world.

With the new year around the corner, why not go beyond the typical resolutions to take control of your legacy? To help, here are some questions to consider.

Who Do You Admire?

Start by reflecting on the lives of people you look up to. What do you notice?

Perhaps you admire specific historical or religious leaders, politicians, musicians, or artists. Consider why you find them inspiring. For example, did they invent something valuable? What charitable acts did they do? Did they write something inspirational?

Understanding those details will give you a glimpse into what drives you and help you develop ideas to emulate admirable actions.

How Have Previous Generations Helped You?

Another reflection area involves looking back on your own life and asking how previous generations helped you.

Perhaps you’ve been affected by actions from civil rights protestors or politicians who implemented important legal protections. You may also remember small but important actions, like a grandparent giving you positive advice. Recognizing how people have helped you can generate ideas about what you want to pass on.

Photo – Getty Images

What Drives You?

Creating a meaningful and lasting legacy takes passion. Ask yourself, what motivates you to make a difference? Has a particular organization helped you out of a tough spot in the past? Have you uncovered an enthusiasm for creating meaningful art? Has someone close to you gone through a tough illness?

It is never too late to develop a passion. Even if some people build a legacy based on a lifetime of devotion to a cause, you’re in good company if you find inspiration later in life.

Whom Do You Want to Impact?

You likely want to positively impact family and close friends, which is a worthy goal. You may also wish to affect marginalized groups or inspirational organizations.

Picturing the people you want to impact will motivate you to make positive changes, according to research published in Cognition: International Journal of Cognitive Science. So, start brainstorming, and then set clear goals.

How Do You Create a Legacy?

Now that you have some ideas about whether you want to focus on finance, charity, leadership, art, community, health, or anything else you are passionate about, you can set goals connected to your legacy. Here are some examples to guide you:

  • Create a trust, and add to it every month.
  • Volunteer at or set up a nonprofit organization.
  • Sign up for a regular volunteer shift at a food kitchen.
  • Write an autobiography.
  • Work toward a promotion.
  • Run a race, from a 5K to a marathon.
  • Teach a class at a local community center.
  • Host regular dinners for family and close friends.
  • Volunteer at a local school.

As 2023 approaches, focus on more than just the 12 months in front of you by thinking about the years you have left and how you can live to leave the legacy you want.

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